Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System by Minilab Ltd is a fantastic app to get children excited about the great outer space. It is based on the book Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space, by Dr. Dominic Walliman (quantum physicist) and Ben Newman (illustrator). It teaches astronomy in an a way that is interesting and easy to understand. The graphics in the app stays true to Ben Newman’s illustrations and has a beautiful retro look and feel.
Before playing the game, players must first create their user profile by choosing a cat avatar and entering their name. They will then get a short introduction and tutorial on how to play and navigate the app. While there is no narration or verbal audio in this app, you can play it in eight different written languages: US English, UK English, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Portuguese, and Italian.
Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System explores the sun, planets, moon, and space travel. There are four areas of learning. First, on the left side of the screen are what I like to call fast facts. These are bits of trivia that are explained further when you click on the (+) icon beside each fact. Both trivia and detailed explanations contain only a sentence or two, making them easy to learn and remember, never overwhelming. Second, the planet/sun/moon unzips to reveal what it looks like inside For example, the earth unzips to reveal the core, mantle, and crust. This also contains some information about its physical features, such as whether it has atmosphere or not. Third, there is a fun “special featurette” on the right side of the screen. This is an area where one specific feature is highlighted and explored just a bit further. On Earth, for example it explains and illustrates why we have seasons, and on Mercury, it has a computer that allows you to calculate your Mercurian age. Some of these are just illustrations with a little more reading, and some are interactive. Fourth and finally, is the Jetpack Challenge. The Jetpack Challenge is a true or false quiz on the fast facts, unzipping, and special feature sections. It contains 10 questions that change each time it is played. If players get at least 9 out 10 right, they get awarded 3 stars, a medal, and parts to build a rocket. They then get to build the rocket from the bottom up. Once the rocket is complete, players get to ride it and blast off into space!
In addition to these great learning activities, it also has a feature where players can view a model of the solar system. The model shows the rotation and revolution of the planets around the sun, and can be viewed closer or further away. There is also a feature that helps children grasp the differing sizes of the sun, moon, and planets by comparing them to the size they would be if they were fruits and vegetables.
I love this app and my children absolutely enjoy it. My son, in particular, went through it in just two days, and I have been truly impressed at how much information he has retained after playing this app. I watched him take a Jetpack Challenge and pass it with flying colors. At this point there is nothing I can think of that I would like to see in future updates, except perhaps for a brief explanation of what the parts of the planet/sun/moon are when it is unzipped. I believe this app is best suited for children ages 7 and up, and I highly recommend it.